Culture and Eco-Tourism in Kenya

There are 70 tribes in Kenya who speak a wide variety of languages. Each tribe has its own unique traditions and form of adornment.

Culture Facts

image: Estelle Bingham joins in a tribal ritual

Estelle Bingham joins in a tribal ritual

Highlights: Multi-ethnic tribal culture – watching a Mijkenda coastal dance troop
Remember to: Check with local environmental organisation before attempting an independent safari, stick to roads and the speed limit
Never: Take any souvenirs from nature or people not openly offered or sold to you

Kenyan Language

As throughout most of Africa, western culture is creeping in and mingling with or eradicating traditional ways. Swahili and English are the national languages, however these have been combined to a new language called Sheng that is a fusion between the two and parts of other languages. This is spoken exclusively by the young and is still very much a street language.

Tribes

There are 70 tribes in Kenya who speak a wide variety of languages. Each tribe has its own unique traditions and form of adornment. The Samburu Tribe still practice traditional ways and live solely of their cattle’s blood, milk and red meat. Clans of the Samburu take their names from the animals in their environment and believe they can communicate and are descended from that animal. The animals these clans are bonded to include lions, buffalos and elephants.

One of the most hypnotic parts of the culture in Kenya is the dance of the Maasai and Samburu. Dance troops known as Mijikenda perform up and down the coast. It is a truly worthwhile experience to see the extraordinary and precise leaping.

Eco-Tourism

Tourism has increased dramatically over the last ten years in Kenya. This has lead to land being cleared illegally and set aside for development for the tourism industry in Kenya in certain cases. It is therefore worth checking with organisations listed below if you are travelling independently to make sure your presence is not displacing indigenous people.

Another important factor to remember is to stick to the roads and the speed limit when you are on safari. These are very delicate bio-regions and you may not appreciate what you are driving over or nests under the ground. It is also important to stick to the speed limit so you will not cause any harm to wildlife if you are not with a trained guide.

On the coast, it is also important to stick to the rules of diving and fishing. Never touch or stand on any coral and definitely never take any souvenirs. Always try and anchor well away from the reef and never big game fish in an area that is not allocated to it.

The ivory trade has also opened up in recent years meaning that once again it is found easily and on sale. This is a complex issue that has its pros and cons. Kenya had a big problem with poachers at one point due to high demand, which has resulted in the elephant and rhino population in Kenya facing extinction during the 20th century. It is one issue that is a very personal and moral choice.

 

MORE INFORMATION

Tourism Concern
A good resource for how tourists should conduct themselves to minimise their impact on a country and good for any queries.

East African Wildlife Society
Website of the East African Wildlife Society (EAWLS), which is a comprehensive guide to all aspects of conservation and tourism in the area.

 

By Electra Gilles

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